Sunset could nearly see her reflection in the counter she was currently scrubbing with an old rag. It was almost useless, considering customers were always a rare sight in the guitar shop, but she had always been taught to keep good things in habit. Making the place as impressively clean as she could for her boss, in her mind, was definitely worth that trouble.
It was laughably easy to run the shopfront, if not a little boring, but Sunset pressed on nonetheless. A little boredom was the least she could do, especially because Soarin was more than lenient with her using the big desktop computer at the front for her own needs. As long as it looked like she was working on it, he said, then she would be fine. Besides, using the cash register function that they rarely ever needed, all Sunset was really required to do was check the company email for client cases, as most of Soarin’s business was through there.
What came as a shock, then, was the sound of the door chimes going off. Sunset perked up, adjusting her little work uniform quickly and smiling at the person standing at the door. The girl before Sunset didn’t even acknowledge her, going straight past the counter and knocking on Soarin’s office door weakly, holding herself.
It didn’t take long for Sunset to figure out who this girl was as Soarin flung open the door excitedly. “Shadey!” He grinned widely, spreading his arms to embrace her.
Nightshade didn’t move, hiccups seizing her body as she stood there holding herself.
“...Nightshade?” Soarin asked again, his goofy and excited mannerisms dropping from his expression entirely. Worry spread on his face instead.
Unable to hold it in anymore, Nightshade let out a squeak before bursting into loud sobs, clasping onto her brother and pressing her face into him. Sunset had never seen Soarin this stunned, or this pale. He held his sister to him, leading her quickly to one of the sofas. He sat in silence for a time, just listening to his sister’s whimpering cries.
Once she finally calmed to a level that meant she could actually talk, Soarin sighed. “What is it, Shadey?”
Nightshade grimaced, “I… Remember that Anon-a-Miss chick you guys are trying to c-catch?”
Soarin’s eyes widened, “She went after you?!”
Nightshade nodded weakly. Sunset bit her lip.
“Let me see your phone. I want to see this post.”
“Soarin, I don-” Nightshade flinched again as she was cut off.
“-Seriously, Nightshade. I need to see this.” Soarin said, not even a hint of humor in his voice.
With a shaky sigh, Nightshade wiped her eyes on her Shadowbolts hoodie, silently passing her brother the phone.
Almost immediately, Sunset could see Soarin turn red as his entire face folded into itself, glaring at the phone so hard, Sunset was sure that he’d throw it against the wall.
He turned to his sister, “When were you going to tell me...?!” He asked her, biting back his tone but tightening his grip even harder onto her phone.
Tears pooled into her eyes again, “I-I.” She looked away, speaking in only a whisper, “I n-never wanted you to know.” She looked down as the streams began again. “I… I know that you miss them.”
Soarin brushed his hands back into his hair, trying to calm himself down as his body shook with pure rage. “I can’t believe they did that to you…” He growled, shaking his head, “How could they?! I- I don’t…” His eyes squeezed shut as he took two fistfulls of his hair.
Curious as Sunset was, she wasn’t about to butt into their business and ask for details - this seemed like a family matter. What she did know was that this was all Anon-a-Miss’s fault, and they were beginning to move onto students of Crystal Prep. The idea of having two schools holding harmful secrets over her head like this made her teeth grind in fury. Of course. She was happy, so something Anon-a-Miss related had to swoop in and ruin her happy life again. She was fed up with dealing with this. She was tired of Anon-a-Miss and whoever was behind the account utterly ruining her own life, and the lives of the victims affected. It was time to stop this once and for all.
Glancing over at Soarin again, the two crossed looks, and Soarin nodded discreetly at her. Taking the hint, Sunset pulled herself from the chair behind the counter and excused herself to her apartment while the siblings talked at length.
Alone in her room and locking the door behind her, Sunset let out a sigh and opened her MyStable app, looking over the Anon-a-Miss page. What she found was truly despicable.
Even in her time when Sunset had ruled the school, she had never let secrets this serious slip. It was one thing to let petty secrets come and go to punish targets for not listening to her demands, but this…
‘Turns out Crystal Prep’s ‘fearless leader’ of the soccer team is so useless, even her own parents didn’t want her. All those bruises she always brought to school that she said were earned in fights? Daddy thought she looked better with them.’
Sunset scowled heavily at the post, trying to ignore the soft sobs coming from the main room of Clipper’s.
“Damn it, Spitfire, I need you here, now!” Soarin’s muffled, furious voice was clear even from the bed where she sat. “Pick up!”
Sunset’s jaw clenched further, and she rolled over in thought. The post only went on from there, but Sunset didn’t need to see it and didn’t want to for Soarin and Nightshade’s sake. Even at her worst, this would be where she would’ve crossed the line, and the fact that Anon-a-Miss was going this far made her look even worse.
That’s when a thought crossed Sunset’s mind. ...Would Soarin turn on her for this? Would Nightshade?
‘No.’ She jolted up with a start, going over to her worktable with a determined expression. Even if she did doubt everyone turning on her after this, she wasn’t about to sit back and watch it happen. She had worked too damn hard to be accepted into a new group to just drop everything here, and she was tired of waiting.
So she pulled her desk open and pulled out her Anon-a-Miss notes, opening her laptop as well. This was going to get done tonight. So with all the evidence in front of her, something immediately struck her as odd.
Why was Scootaloo the only one targeted of the Crusaders? Why not all three of them? Knowing secrets aside, it made no sense to Sunset that only one of those three would have their secrets out; especially knowing Diamond Tiara. Those three did all sorts of embarrassing stunts, and Tiara should’ve had a field day dumping all of them.
The more Sunset thought about it, the more the Crusaders looked guilty. Applejack had told her that only the assembled group and her family knew about her nickname. Applebloom was a part of her family, and had been acting weird around her recently, not to mention being the one who had shown them the account to begin with. To think about it, Sweetie Belle could have easily stolen her phone while she was asleep at Rarity’s sleepover that night, and replaced it before anyone noticed. Scootaloo made a little less sense, but just about anyone could’ve stolen Rainbow’s horrible paper from her bag. ...If they knew about it, that was.
The only thing keeping Sunset from completely being firm in her assertion was Rainbow’s second secret. How would the girls have gotten that information from Spitfire and Soarin, when the two graduates swore they hadn’t told a soul?
Other than that, though, Sunset was pretty firm in her suspicion of the CMC. Applebloom and Sweetie Belle were two of the only students of the school not targeted by Anon-a-Miss, the first targets just happened to be their sisters, they had been treating Sunset strangely even before this even started, and the specific nature of Applejack’s nickname. Now, it all just made too much sense to her.
Sunset slouched back in her seat, taking a deep breath before opening the door into the main part of the shop. Nightshade was there still, looking calmer than before and sitting next to Spitfire, who must’ve arrived while Sunset was in the back. Soarin had stepped out despite the cold, and was now sitting on the front step of the shop with his head in his hands. Nightshade looked over to him sadly.
“He’s… He’s taking this about as well as I expected.” Nightshade sighed, leaning into Spitfire for support.
The young woman looked a little uncomfortable at the touch, but didn’t say anything or try to push Nightshade away, simply shaking her head at Soarin.
Sunset approached cautiously. “Hey, erm, Nightshade?”
Nightshade smiled at her weakly, a small gesture that meant the world to Sunset. Clearly, Nightshade didn’t blame her. “Hey Sunset. Good to finally meet you.” She rubbed her shoulder, “Soarin talks about you a lot.”
“Not as much as he talks about you.” Sunset said with certainty, “But… There’s something I need to tell you all.”
“Well… Soarin might take awhile to calm down, so you can tell us then.” Spitfire said.
Sunset’s eyes lingered on the door for a moment, before finally making up her mind. Ignoring Spitfire and Nightshade’s stares as she passed across the sales floor and opened the front door. She sat herself down next to Soarin, who didn’t even turn her way as she approached.
“...It’s funny.” Sunset breathed, “This is kinda like where Misty found me that day.” When Soarin said nothing, Sunset continued with a sigh, “...Anon-a-Miss has sent us both here now, and that pisses me off more than you could ever imagine.”
“...Join the club.” Soarin muttered. “I feel like an idiot.”
“You’re not an idiot, Soarin.”
“You wouldn’t know what I meant, Sunset.” Soarin sighed, “I… Mean that in the nicest of ways.”
Sunset laughed softly, “I know, I know. But I also know you’re not an idiot.”
“Then how couldn’t I have seen it?!” Soarin’s voice boomed. “It was all there, I know it was; I saw the signs!” He ran his hands through his hair again.
“...Nightshade doesn’t seem to blame you.” Sunset said, “And… Isn’t that what matters in the end? Besides… I think I’ve figured out who Anon-a-Miss is.”
Soarin perked up a little, “You found something?”
“I pulled everything together enough, I hope. It’s only a suspicion.”
“A suspicion should be enough to be left in Principal Celestia’s hands.” Sunset looked up at the sound of the new voice, and saw Dash standing over them with a reassuring smile.
“Rainbow.” Sunset breathed in relief, “Good; I was going to text you all this anyways.”
“Well, now I’m here.” Dash said, patting Soarin’s shoulder, “I couldn’t stay away after that post.”
“Let’s get inside.” Soarin told both of them, getting up. “I can’t pout all night; we need to know what we can do about this.”
“Not much, actually.” Sunset said as they went in, “Because from what I saw, the Crusaders are the ones who made the account.”
Silence immediately spread over the room as Dash, Spitfire, and Soarin stared at her, eyes wide with shock. It felt like it would take forever for them to speak up again before Nightshade broke the silence.
“...Who?” She asked.
“Three Freshman at CHS.” Sunset explained.
“Technically, one of our teammates.” Soarin growled. “The Junior Team counts.”
“...Don’t get mad at them yet, Soarin.” Dash said cautiously, “It is still a suspicion, and…” She glanced nervously at Sunset, “I jumped to conclusions about this kinda thing once, and I’m not about to do it again.”
Sunset nodded curtly, “Good. I’m not going to suggest we do anything rash, not without actual confirmation. But for now… We have our suspects, and we can get Principal Celestia in on investigating it.”
“Well… It’s not much.” Dash sighed, “But like you told Misty, evidence is important even it pushes us back.”
“Right.” Sunset nodded, “And now… All we can do is wait for break to finish.”
“That sucks…” Dash sighed, “But I guess it only makes sense.”
“Well, the Crusaders or not.” Soarin scowled, crossing his arms, “Whoever leaked out Shadey’s secret is going to pay.” His eyes narrowed dangerously.
Spitfire came over, putting her hand on his shoulder, “It’s not worth getting all wound up about now, Soar. It’s still more than a week away, and…” She glanced at Nightshade.
Soarin got the message. Blowing out his breath, he walked over and pulled Nightshade into another hug. “I’m so sorry that I never figured it out.”
“It’s okay.” She sighed, “I’ve had time to heal, and I never wanted you to find out. Let’s just… Pretend that it never did.”
“I don’t think I can.”
“Then… At least let it wait until after Hearth’s Warming. Please? I just want to forget.” She asked.
Soarin bit his lip, “Alright. Let’s not let this get in the way of the holidays. It can wait until after.”
Nightshade sighed in relief, “Sounds like a great idea.”
“So! Celestia.” Luna smiled at her sister as they sat on the sofa. “Another wonderful Hearth’s Warming together, wouldn’t you say?” She passed over the wine bottle as they relaxed in their parents’ living room.
“I would say.” Celestia joked, the two clinking their glasses as they enjoyed their spot in front of the fireplace.
“When are we going to be spending it with grandkids?” A man’s voice was heard from the kitchen, and Luna rolled her eyes.
“Don’t start this shit again, Dad!” Luna scoffed.
Celestia laughed, elbowing her sister, “We’d better get started Luna, because everyone knows the first thing we want in life is a teenager.”
“Yes, so I can watch someone else pull a troublemaker into their office.” Luna muttered into her drink.
“Kids.” Celestia summed up with a chuckle.
“Kids.” Luna agreed, shaking her head slowly.
PING! Despite their phones being on the other side of the room, the two could easily hear them go off.
“What’s that?” Luna asked, glancing at their phones.
Celestia put her wine glass down before getting up, “Oh, it’s probably someone else wishing us happy holidays and all that.” She was at her cell phone in an instant, smiling down at the reminder that had popped up. “I take it back. Finally, it’s Cheerilee.”
“Think she found anything about Anon-a-Miss’s identity?” Luna asked, taking another sip of her wine.
“Well, let me see.” Celestia said, opening up her messages to read what Cheerilee had texted her. She froze in place after a moment of reading Cheerilee's report and hastily switched applications, a manic look in her eyes. Luna looked over at Celestia expectantly, mid-sip of her wine and unable to speak for the moment. “Luna…”
“Mmm?” Luna raised an eyebrow.
Celestia simply passed over the phone, and Luna’s grip slowly tightened around the plastic casing as she read:
‘For as many punishments that she likes to dish out, looks like she had her own a few years back. Hahaha, karma is a bitch!’
Included with the short line of the post, Luna saw a document attached. As she feared, she found a form that acknowledged the payment of her bail from a few years back, signed in Celestia’s clean, cursive handwriting. A few more details could be seen on the paper. The mention of a few wrecked vehicles, a destroyed concrete median, and a cutoff piece of text that spoke in relation to a storefront.
Luna bit her lip, “Th-the school board could fire me if they see this!”
“I know.” Celestia sighed harshly, brow furrowing, “This is the last straw, Luna.” Her normally quiet and soft voice became more edged with anger with every breath she took, “Screw staying out of this; it just became personal.”
Luna frowned, “It… doesn’t change that it was there, Tia.” She sighed, “And just when everyone was finally starting to forget about that incident…”
“No. None of it can be.” Celestia frowned in hesitant agreement, “But we need to get it off of that account, at the least.”
“...And how are we going to do that with no idea of the identity of the account’s user?” Luna asked. “You know, the source behind this conundrum in the first place?”
Celestia scowled down at the icon of the red and yellow girl that was posted clearly all over Anon-a-Miss’s blog. “...Do we still have Sunset Shimmer’s file, Luna?”
Sweetie Belle looked up with a frown, she and the rest of the Crusaders crowded inside of her room, the dark illuminated only by the light of their phones. She grimaced at the other two.
“Is it just me, or does anyone else think that we really, really just screwed up?”